(Updated Title): Table of Contents in the Front or Back is Okay with Amazon

Updated (03/24/2016): Good news.  If you have a Table of Contents in the back of your book at Amazon, you should be okay.  This issue over the Table of Contents has (thankfully) turned out to be less serious than I thought.  If anyone else has more light to shed on the issue, please share.

What I have taken from this whole thing (and I think it’s worth noting) is that trying to scam the system at any online retailer will end up getting back to you.  So keep it honest.

Here’s the original post (and I have edited it in light of the new information):

I still want to give credit to David Gaughran for taking the time to keep all authors informed about things we need to watch out for.  Here’s his blog.

 

So what’s been happening at Amazon that has concerned a lot of authors?  

Apparently some Kindle Unlimited authors are putting a link at the very front of their books promising something (like a gift card or a free Kindle) if readers click on that link.  This link will take the readers to the very end of the book, and this has, in turn, signaled “all pages read” for the Kindle Unlimited program.  So those authors are getting credits for pages that the readers haven’t actually read.

How many authors are doing this?  That’s anybody’s guess.  My feeling is that most Kindle Unlimited authors are honest and not trying to scam the system.  But, as is the case with almost anything, the actions of a few are affecting the majority.

What can you do?  

I still think this might be a good time to add a Table of Contents to your book if you don’t already have one.  I’m in the process of doing this for my older titles.  To those of you who argue it’s pointless to have a Table of Contents in a book, especially fiction, I received quality report notices from Amazon over the past three years telling me I must have one.  So be on the safe side and add it in.

Amazon has come out and said a Table of Contents in the back or front is okay as long as it doesn’t result in poor customer experience.  So I’m guessing, “Keep it clean and neat.”

Check your books at Amazon to make sure the “Buy” button is still active.  If not, see what you can do to get it back.  (This is still probably a good idea.)

Warn others this scam has been going on.

I’ll keep this update below:

Added March 19, 2016:

Terry Compton (refer to comments below) has shed more light on this issue.  It appears it is okay to have a Table of Contents in the back of your book as long as it doesn’t create a poor reader experience. Also the Table of Contents must not unnaturally inflate sales or pages read.    Here’s the link for additional information.  So to err on the side of caution, don’t play games with the system.  Earn your pages read and sales legitimately.

Thanks, Terry!

23 Comments

  1. Kathy Lauren says:

    Oh my, good to know. Thanks so much for the heads-up!!

  2. I have a ToC at the front of all my latest books, but when I first started I didn’t have ToCs at all. I’m wondering if I need to go back and actually put ToCs in all my earlier books…that’s a task and a half LOL!

    1. No kidding! I had to go through each book to figure out which of my older ones don’t have a TOC. I have nine total to go through. It’s only because I have gotten those KDP Quality reports telling me to put a TOC in about six of them that the task isn’t much more daunting.

      So far, I haven’t heard anything about Amazon pulling books that don’t have a TOC. It seems to be only those with TOCs in the back that are dinged. How long are your books? Mine are full-length, so it makes more sense to do a TOC in those. I have gotten a KDP Quality report for a missing TOC in a 30,000 word book, so I know novellas should have one. Anything shorter than that, I’m not sure.

      1. Apart from a couple of short stories and 2 novellas, all my other books are full length novels. I looked through the novels and was relieved to see I only had 6 to put TOCs in. My novellas don’t have TOCs, but I’ve never been contacted about them. Bummer, maybe I should do those as well!!!

        1. I’m still working my way through the older books, just to be on the safe side. It is a huge pain. May we not go crazy doing this busy work.

  3. Why wouldn’t you have a TOC in your book?

    1. I don’t know how long you’ve been self-publishing, but early on when I was just starting this (2009), I hadn’t even heard of doing a TOC in fiction when self-publishing an ebook. I don’t know if traditional publishers were doing it back then or not, but I know a lot of self-published authors hadn’t even thought to do it. I think it was around 2011-2012 that I started to hear about it. It wasn’t until around 2013 or 2014 that I started getting KDP Quality Reports about it. This is why my early books don’t have them, and why I’ve been going through and adding them a little at a time. I should be done by April with everything.

      1. I published my first book in 2008 so about the same time you did and it never even occurred to me to NOT have a TOC. Wow. lol.

        1. You were ahead of the times. 🙂

    2. When I first started self pubbing, I didn’t know about ToCs. It’s something I only picked up as I continued. The majority of my books have ToCs now.

  4. This is crazy. I’m so not a criminal, so I would never have thought to do this.

    1. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to do this either. I wish the few who do stuff like this wouldn’t go around making things harder for the rest of us.

    1. Thanks for the link. I’ll add to the post above.

      1. vdouglas57 says:

        I just wish that everyone had checked it out before hitting the panic button, something my Facebook group did. We posted that story, and the link to the correction, last week!

        1. I waited to see how things played out before passing the information along, but I can see I missed the part about the TOC in the back being okay after all. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem like the major thing it initially appeared. 🙂

  5. Just to update you on this:

    I spoke with Amazon on this at length. Amazon apologized for incorrectly enforcing the guidelines surrounding TOCs and for the ambiguity in the guidelines.. It should just be a guideline – not a cast-iron rule, and Amazon said there were errors around the application and enforcement of this.

    The long and the short of it is that it’s okay to put your TOC at the back or the front. Just to clarify something that could be interpreted from your Update – the authors punished over this were playing some kind of games here. That is most definitely not the case.

    Finally, Amazon has updated the guidlines to remove the confusion/ambiguity, and it is reviewing its own internal processes regarding Quality Notices and the enforcement of same – which is good to hear.

    1. Thanks for clarifying things. I will amend the title and the blog post to help avoid confusion.

      This is good news.

  6. I had to laugh, mostly at myself. I’ve never contemplated putting a ToC at the back of a book. I guess that comes from reading paperbacks! It always made sense to me to have a ToC at the front of the book. Still, different strokes for different folks!

    1. I came across a couple of authors who put them in the back, but I put them in the front because I was used to seeing them in the front when I read paperbacks. So I know where you’re coming from. 🙂

  7. Thanks for sharing this! I had no idea this was even an issue! Yeesh!

    1. Doesn’t it make you wonder what the next big issue will be? By the time you get more than a few books out, this whole things starts to become a nightmare because you might have to go back and change things.

      I’m not looking forward to KU 3 and what that will mean for us.

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